Ben Roethlisberger Doesn't Have to Play Second Banana in Any Elite Quarterback Showdown

Jared Wickerham

There's been a lot of talk about how Pittsburgh will be able to contain Eli Manning and the potent Giants offense in Week 9. Lest we forget, the Steelers have their very own franchise quarterback with two Super Bowl rings and an ability to lead fourth quarter comebacks.

I was at work Friday morning, listening to sports talk radio with my boss. The main topic of discussion at this particular time was how the Steelers were going to stop Eli Manning of the New York football Giants. He has two Super Bowls, ya know? Two Super Bowl MVPs, too. The fans calling in suggested the typical: "Run the football, eat up the clock and keep Eli off the field."


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My boss, who is all about running the football and eating up the clock, echoed those sentiments time and time again. I was busy working, but I kept my ears open to hear what was being said about Sunday's matchup vs. the Giants. And as I listened to the callers and their suggestions, and as I also listened to my boss go on and on about Eli Manning and how difficult a task it's going to be to stop him and upset New York at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, I started to get a bit fired-up. All right, I was at work, so it was more like annoyed. Finally, after the fifth suggestion from my boss about using fullbacks and the clock to stop Manning, I simply said, "Ya know, Pittsburgh has a franchise quarterback, too."

My boss is like a lot of Steelers fans I know. He'd rather Pittsburgh's quarterback be seen handing off and not heard dancing around defenders and making things happen with his arm down-field.

A fancy, elite quarterback gets in the way of "Steeler football." And as we all know, Steeler football is all about keeping that pigskin as low to the ground as humanly possible. Tuck that thing into Franco's, I mean, Jerome's, I mean, Redman's gut and let him take on defenders and eat up that clock, baby!

I've been on this soap box before, but it never gets old because a huge part of me feels as if we don't really "get" just how important Roethlsiberger has been to this second Super Bowl Era.

Make no mistake about it, Ben Roethlsiberger is a franchise quarterback, and he's the straw that stirs the drink for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Back in January, when Bruce Arians refired (no typo, just my way of being smarmy), there was a massive celebration around the Nation, and maybe rightfully so. However, there were some of you who weren't just happy Arians was let go, you were also happy that Big Ben's golfing buddy was now gone. "That Roethlisberger needs to realize he's not the boss. The Rooneys sign his paycheck, not BA. Hopefully, they'll get someone in here to keep him in check."

What does that mean? Keep him in check? He's a franchise quarterback, not a wacky talk show host who goes around slapping his guests with rubber chickens. Why on Earth would you want to keep your franchise quarterback in check?

When Todd Haley was brought in to replace Arians, some of you out there, you know who you are, were happy because not only had Haley shown the willingness to run the football while head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, he also showed the willingness to get in his players' faces. Now picture Haley doing that to Roethlisberger on the sidelines. You pro-keep Ben in checkers out there, wouldn't you just love it? Brodie Croyle was being held in check something fierce, there.

And since the Chiefs were a pretty good rushing team under Haley, if he brought that philosophy (and a fullback) to Pittsburgh, well, it would finally make that time of possession dream come true. Right now, the Steelers are second in time of possession. Finally, an offensive coordinator who knows how to take those minutes off the clock, baby! Arians would never have thought to do that. I wonder what team led the NFL in time of possession a year ago? Holy crap, it was the Steelers! And to think, all Arians wanted to do was use Roethlisberger's arm like it was attached to an elite quarterback. He had him throwing deep to Mike Wallace so many times, it was almost like he had the best deep threat combination in the league. That stat had to be an anomaly, right? I wonder how many times the Steelers finished in the top five in time of possession under Arians? Holy crap, you mean, every season?

OK, enough smarmy talk from me. I just get fired up whenever one of these elite vs. elite quarterback match-ups are on the horizon because it seems as if Roethlisberger is always the Abbot to the other guy's Costello. He's the Martin to the Lewis; the Oates to the Hall.

I listen to a lot of sports talk radio, and this week, like any other week when the Steelers are facing a team with an elite quarterback, one of the sentiments expressed is that Roethlisberger is secretly fired up about facing Eli Manning. You know what? I don't blame him one bit.

Not only doesn't Roethlisberger get the respect he deserves nationally, he probably doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves here in Pittsburgh, either. I know Steeler Nation isn't collectively stupid. Of course, we recognize what we have in Roethlisberger, but it just doesn't seem like we appreciate it as much as we should.

You would think No. 7 would be absolutely adored in Pittsburgh. There's a certain attitude that comes with playing for the Steelers and being a Steelers fan. We're a tough crowd, and we want our guys to be tough, too. Roethlisberger has played with broken feet, broken noses, broken thumbs, and depending on who you believe, broken toes. He had his nose turned upside down by Haloti Ngata a couple of years ago during a pivotal Sunday night game in Baltimore, and he not only hung in there the entire game, he tossed Terrell Suggs aside as he led the Steelers to a victory in the final minutes.

In all fairness to Haley, I think he's done a good job of convincing Roethlisberger to get rid of the football quicker, and it has kept him upright more often this season. And despite the move to a more "dink and dunk" style, the essence of Ben is still there, and he's still scrambling out of the pocket and making things happen with his arm down field.

When Roethlisberger works his "magic" and keeps plays alive and pulls rabbits out of his hat, that's actually a good thing. It's what makes him unique and there aren't many people who can do what he does on a consistent basis. The fact that he's been able to do it his entire career is a testament to his abilities.

And he's not just some street-baller who's gotten lucky over the years, either. Roethlisberger has a career completion percentage of 63.4 and a quarterback rating of 92.8. To give you a comparison, Tom Brady's career line is 63.9/96.6, and Peyton Manning's is 65.1/95.4. You don't produce numbers like that if you're just out there making stuff up. Roethlisberger is a unique play-maker but within in the frame-work of a classic franchise quarterback.

Roethlisberger's uniqueness is what really keeps him near the bottom of the "elite quarterback" discussions, in my opinion, because he's someone you can't just put in a little box and analyze like a Manning (Peyton), Brees or Brady.

I know what some of you are going to say: "But you don't understand. Ben IS a franchise quarterback, and the Steelers need him healthy. That's why Art II said what he said about Roethlisberger getting rid of the football faster."

Oh really? You remember the stuff I mentioned above about him playing with injuries, right? Speaking of guys who play with reckless abandon, when was the last time Troy Polamalu played in a game? Heck, when was the last time he was 100% healthy? Aaron Smith spent the last five seasons of his career sustaining season-ending injuries. James Harrison is still recovering from an offseason knee injury. LaMarr Woodley probably needs a hamstring transplant. Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer won't play against the Giants. Isaac Redman will, but he's not 100% by any means. And there is Big Ben, probable for Sunday's game, last I checked. In fact, I don't think he's even on the injury list.

For all the talk of Roethlisberger and his "schoolyard tactics," he's probably having the best year of his career, with 14 touchdowns to only three interception. You could say it's the Haley offense, but you could also say it's just a talented Roethlisberger adapting to a new offense and finding a way to still get the job done. In 2007, Roethlisberger had 32 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, and in 2010, he had 26 TDs to 12 INTs. Putting up numbers isn't new to him. He put up over 4000 yards a year ago.

But, of course, the greatest stat of all for Big Ben is 84-37. That's Roethlisberger's career win/loss record during the regular season. He's also 10-4 in the postseason, complete two Super Bowl trophies.

Since this is Steelers Country, I know what some of you are going to say, "Hey, Ben has benefited from a strong defense throughout his career. He doesn't deserve all the credit." Maybe not, but he deserves more than you may be willing to concede.

Safeties don't get hung in effigy or have garbage thrown on their lawn after tough losses. Quarterbacks do.

Regardless of what you think of Tim Tebow's talents, about 80% of the reason he's such a media phenomenon has to do with the fact that he's a quarterback. If he was Tim Tebow, the tire pushing linebacker, he probably wouldn't have his very own ESPN ticker.

The Steelers had great defenses and strong rushing attacks many times in the years preceding Roethlisberger, but they never had a Super Bowl until he arrived. Coincidence? I think not.

Shortly after the Steelers triumph over the Ravens in the 2008 AFC Championship game, a Baltimore pass-rusher was quoted as saying, "It's almost like Ben wants you to beat your man." Speaking of fired up, I was when I read that quote. That's awesome stuff right there. You can talk about the Mannings and Bradys of the world and how they can cut a defense up with their arms. You can also talk about people like Michael Vick and his ability to make plays with his feet. However, I'm willing to bet that a defender's worst nightmare is a quarterback who has the ability to elude him with his feet and make stuff happen down-field with his arm.

That's what makes OUR franchise quarterback so unique, and I sure do hope it's on full display Sunday afternoon in New York for all the world to see.

I leave you with this highlight montage. In true Ben Roethlisberger spirit, you'll probably scream, "I can't stand this music. Throw it away!" But man, will you love the plays.

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